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Keeping children safe on the road

 The stats are terrifying:

-            One in five newly qualified drivers will crash their car within six months of passing their test.

-            40 per cent of seventeen-year-old boys will crash within six months of getting their licence.

-            Only eight per cent of the drivers on our roads are aged 17 – 24 and yet they account for a shocking 30 per cent of people who are killed in cars every year.

They’re the reason any parent with a teenager old enough to take to the road has their heart in their mouth every time they pick up the car keys. It’s also the reason the average 17/18 year old now pays more than £2,000 on their annual insurance policy.

People are trying to come up with solutions. The government is compiling a green paper on the topic of young driver safety, to see what can be done. All kinds of things have been discussed, from imposing a curfew on young drivers, so they can’t drive in the dark, to limiting the number of people they can have as passengers in a car they are driving. Other things being considered are incentives for new drivers to take additional training after passing their test and increasing the probationary period when a licence can more easily been revoked.

But could the solution be much simpler?

In essence we need to teach youngsters how to drive better – and that means for a longer period of time.

Young Driver was set up in 2009, offering driving lessons to 11-17 year olds (i.e. before they’re technically allowed to drive on the roads), on private property, with the aim of creating a generation of safer drivers. And it’s working – our research has shown that for those who have taken a Young Driver course, the rate of accidents in the first six months after passing their test drops by more than a half, to fewer than one in ten

Our philosophy is it’s vital to train drivers over a longer period of time and catching youngsters when their attitudes towards driving are still developing is key. By starting at a younger age you can more easily focus on attitude and behaviour and have a better chance of tackling a young person’s sense of invulnerability. Think back to when you were 17 – the world is your oyster and you just want to get out and do things, not worry about risks and dangers. Really, it’s perhaps the least safe age to be taking to the wheel of a car for the first time!

At Young Driver a pretend ‘road system’ is set out so youngsters can practice in as realistic a setting as possible. They are in dual controlled cars with qualified instructors, and they complete a Drive Diary, so they, parents and future driving teachers can see how they progress. And because it’s fun, and unpressured, and not leading to “taking the test” as quickly as possible, they genuinely take in what they’re being taught and they get chance to practice, practice and practice some more.

So what can you do to keep your child safe once they’re ready to take to the road? Teenagers often don’t want to hear the truth from their parents but sometimes they’ll listen more to another relative, a teacher or family friend. Whether it is you, or someone else that does it, make sure someone talks to them about the dangers of driving. Make sure they understand the responsibilities involved. Help them to prepare as best they can, by making sure they experience as much time behind the wheel as possible in the hands of a capable instructor. Start early if you can, and once they do take to the road, go out with them in your own car as much as you can (try not to pass on any bad habits!). Help them with their theory – if you work through it with them, you can help to bring it to life rather than it just being a series of meaningless words and images they feel they have to learn like a boring school subject they just want to get through. These lessons really are life and death.

It is to all of our benefit that young drivers are better equipped to take to the roads – parents and road-users alike – now is the time to do something about it.

Over 100,000 under-17s have now taken a Young Driver course and there are 30 venues across the UK.

For more information visit www.youngdriver.eu  

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